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The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis…

The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt) (original 1973; edition 2004)

by John Bellairs, Edward Gorey (Illustrator)

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1,605526,787 (4)1 / 72
Title:The House With a Clock In Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt)
Authors:John Bellairs
Other authors:Edward Gorey (Illustrator)
Info:Puffin (2004), Paperback, 179 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:kindle, boyhood

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The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs (1973)


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Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
I remember seeing this book when I was in grade school but for some reason I never did read it then. Maybe I thought it looked too spooky? (I was a timid child, though I was perversely attracted to such things.) Anyway, I have always loved stories about weird houses and this particular title always stuck with me, so when I saw this in a library sale a few days back for fifty cents I decided to correct my youthful oversight.

I really, really liked this book and its slightly quirky characters. Despite the ominous backdrop, the story has a rather whimsical tone (helped by the Edward Gorey illustrations), and I laughed out loud quite a bit. I was also pleased to find the book is not written down at all just because it is for kids. They will get a good vocabulary exercise and may even have to find out what certain (gasp!) old things are! (The story takes place in 1948.) Finally, being published in 1973, it is untouched by our current political correctness gone mad; alcohol is occasionally drunk, and Uncle Jonathan even smokes a hookah.

I was slightly let down by the resolution of the story; after all the mysterious buildup, it felt a bit simple. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this to children, as well as to grownups who want to take a side-trip down memory lane. There are few authors today who are writing for kids (or young adults, for that matter) with such intelligence and class. I am glad to see it is still in print. ( )
  chaosfox | Feb 22, 2019 |
This was a delightful read! Lewis is a chubby young man who cannot play sports and is also the new kid in town. He cannot seem to fit in except with is uncle and his uncle's neighbor who happen to be wizards. But in the midst of his struggles Lewis does manage to make one friend, Tarbey, who is a popular kid in town and takes Lewis under his wing. Until Lewis has his uncle demonstrate some magic for Tarbey. Unbelieving or scared or both, Lewis feels his friend slipping away. What would a young boy do to hold on to his only friend? To keep from being lonely? What would you do as an adult? What would you give? While the target demographic for this book is young people, I found it to be applicable to adults as well - for what might we be willing to do, at any age, to hold on to our only friend? And then when it becomes apparent that we have done the wrong thing? The story is entertaining and engaging, with delightful and imaginative characters and an interesting plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ( )
  Al-G | Feb 21, 2019 |
I felt compelled to reread this after seeing the godawful trailer for the new film. I ended up reading it aloud to my husband over the course of a few nights. The book is still wonderful. I've linked to book reviews for the Lewis Barnavelt Trilogy at the bottom.

I thought I was over getting nerdrage at bad book to film translations, but those trailers made me see red. 'A House with a Clock in It's Walls' is a meandering book about a lonely, scared boy finding a place for himself in his new family after his parent's death, and, above all, learning about true courage and friendship.

Tonally, aesthetically, and factually this movie has missed the mark. I know its only a trailer, but trailers these days seem to show the whole damn film. The casting is terrible. Lewis is some Hollywood kid instead of the weepy (his parents are DEAD, remember?), overweight bookish loner. Jack Black is all crazy googly-eyed as Uncle Jonathan. Mrs. Zimmerman instead of being the "wrinkliest" woman Lewis has ever seen, all smile lines, is played by Cate Blanchett with a silver wig. What a missed opportunity to bring back some great actress with a meaty role for an elderly woman.

Aesthetically, some effort seems to have been made to put it in early postwar America, but the CGI effects are plastered over everything and used for cheap laughs - complimented by bad dialogue.

Tonally, this was a book filled with gentle humor balanced with atmospheric dread and real scares. How can there be any balance in this movie?

John Bellairs books are in danger of going out of print - 'Figure in the Shadows' and 'The Letter, the Witch, and The Ring' are already gone. The book and the movie are so different that no kid who liked the movie is going to enjoy the book, creating NO demand for those sequels, and any kid with the sense to hate the movie is going to avoid the book thinking they share some similarities. More bad news: when this movie fails some asinine executive is going to think kids don't like fantasy or scary movies, when they only don't like bullshit.

The Lewis Barnavelt Trilogy:

'The House with a Clock in It's Walls'

'The Figure in the Shadows'

'The Letter, The Witch, and The Ring' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 21, 2019 |
I have a lot of childhood favorites, I read a lot. I can't remember when exactly I came down with the Bellairs-bug, but I know that he was one of those authors that I fanatically chased down as much as I could. The school and the public librarian always put me down first in line for new books of his to come in.

This isn't the original Edward Gorey cover, but this is the one that I think of when I think of this book. It's just so spooky: the shadowed outline of the house, the twisted trees against a swirling evening sky and of course the staring green face. Lewis looks like he's balding, but that's ok.

It's a shame that there are only three Lewis Barnevelt books(I can't bring myself to 'count' the Strickland additions to the series, even if the first three were completions of existing manuscripts/notes) because Lewis is Bellairs' most believable character. Lewis is awkward, fallible and lonely. The desperate lengths he goes to, the promises and pleading, to keep a kid who he shouldn't want to be friends with, all ring true. He's someone who really needs magic. It was the frightening adventure that Lewis sets off that hooked me as a kid, as an adult its Lewis himself that makes this a great book. ( )
1 vote ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
In 1948, Lewis Barnavelt is orphaned at the age of ten when his parents are killed in a car crash. His Uncle Jonathan becomes his guardian, and Lewis takes a long bus ride to a small town in New York, where Uncle Jonathan collects him and takes him to his home at the top of the very well-named High Street.

But Jonathan Barnavelt is not your average bachelor uncle who has suddenly inherited his brother's son. He and his neighbor & good friend, Mrs. Zimmerman, are witches. Jonathan's house previously owned by Isaac Izard and his wife, Serenna, who were also witches--but not good witches. They're dead, but not entirely gone. There's a clock, with a sinister purpose, somewhere in the walls of the house.

At first, Lewis is delighted just to watch the magic his uncle and Mrs. Zimmerman perform. What they show him is friendly magic, mainly for entertainment suitable for a child. Jonathan has quite serious magic books included in his library, but those are off limits to Lewis, though he has free run of the rest of it.

But Lewis is a lonely child, fat, unathletic, and far away from the few friends he had in his midwest home. He isn't making new friends here, until Tarby, a very popular boy, breaks his arm and is temporarily sidelined from sports. For a while, Tarby is happy to hang out with Lewis, try to improve his softball game, and come over to his house sometimes. But as the arm heals, Tarby is getting restless, and in an attempt to hold on to his one friend, Lewis makes a reckless promise--that he can raise the dead, and will demonstrate this to Tarby on Halloween.

He sneaks books from the magic section of the library, and on Halloween, he and Tarby accidentally choose the Izard mausoleum.

This is where Lewis discovers the unfriendly side of magic, and things get very, very scary.

The characters are well-developed and interesting. It's 1948, and a different world from today, or even from 1973, when it was written. Bellairs makes the world real and believable and lived-in, as different as it was from contemporary life even four decades ago. The magic is not a deus ex machina; it has its own complexities and price.

Recommended, even if you don't have a kid in your life to be your excuse.

This is an old favorite of---not my childhood, when theoretically it would have been appropriate. It hadn't even been written yet. In college, I read The Face in the Frost, and some time after that I met Bellairs at a book festival. In conversation, I learned that he had spent a year teaching English at the very college I was attending--a Catholic women's college.

He didn't like it there. That's why he only lasted one year. I mentioned him to my advisor at the school, the chair of the history department--who remembered him favorably, was sorry he hadn't stayed, and was happy to hear he was doing well. He asked me to pass on his good wishes, which I was able to do because by this time I had roped Bellairs into being a program participant at a local science fiction & fantasy convention. He was astounded that anyone from the college remembered him at all, much less favorably!

I suppose the only point of this digression is that we never know the impact we have on other people.

I bought this audiobook. ( )
1 vote LisCarey | Jan 16, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Bellairsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gorey, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Priscilla, who lets me be myself
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Lewis Barnavelt fidgeted and wiped his sweaty palms on the seat of the bus that was roaring toward New Zebedee.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142402575, Paperback)

Lewis always dreamed of living in an old house full of secret passageways, hidden rooms, and big marble fireplaces. And suddenly, after the death of his parents, he finds himself in just such a mansion--his Uncle Jonathan's. When he discovers that his big friendly uncle is also a wizard, Lewis has a hard time keeping himself from jumping up and down in his seat. Unfortunately, what Lewis doesn't bank on is the fact that the previous owner of the mansion was also a wizard--but an evil one who has placed a tick-tocking clock somewhere in the bowels of the house, marking off the minutes until the end of the world. And when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead on Halloween night, the clock only ticks louder and faster. Doomsday draws near--unless Lewis can stop the clock!

This is a deliciously chilling tale, with healthy doses of humor and compassion thrown in for good measure. Edward Gorey's unmistakable pen and ink style (as seen in many picture books, including The Shrinking of Treehorn and Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats) perfectly complements John Bellairs's wry, touching story of a lonely boy, his quirky uncle, and the ghost of mansions past. (Ages 9 to 12) --Emilie Coulter

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:39 -0400)

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A boy goes to live with his magician uncle in a mansion that has a clock hidden in the walls which is ticking off the minutes until doomsday.

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